Once a Year

Yet another statue of Mahatma Gandhi was unveiled on Gandhi Jayanti Day. Countless such Gandhi statues dot the landscape in prime locations across the country, just as almost every Indian city and town has an arterial road named after him.

But this brand new bronze statue is special—it is at Rajghat, it is a life-size edifice standing five feet nine inches tall and it was inaugurated on the occasion of his 148th birth anniversary by the Vice President of India.

It is clear that India deeply cherishes the memory of the 'Father of the Nation' and all that he stood for. However, a photo-essay in a newspaper in Chhattis-garh reveals the other side of the story of the nation's devotion.

Photographer Satyaprakash Pandey has captured several disconcerting pictures of Gandhian edifices afflicted by neglect and vandalism. Gandhi statues with severed heads and statues surrounded by heaps of garbage and filth. At one road crossing in Chhaparwa, all that was visible was the decapitated bust of the 'Father of the Nation', with arm-less upper body. In rural Jashpur there was a statue of Gandhi holding an iron rod instead of the symbolic wooden walking stick. Another statue installed at a primary school in Bartoli is barely visible behind heaps of garbage near a wall inscribed with inspirational slogans about of cleanliness and sanitation. On the Aamgaon road, a Gandhi statue with gouged out eyes stares down into consciousness of people passing by.

In contrast, floral tributes were paid to the grand portrait of the Mahatma in the Central hall of parliament by a galaxy of luminaries led by the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Prime Minister. As the majority of citizens stayed home to enjoy another national holiday on October 2, the country's rulers were busy attending official functions, laying wreaths and delivering rousing speeches about the values of hard work, religious tolerance, cleanliness and non-violence.

The reality elsewhere was somewhat different. In Kanpur, the District Magistarte ordered a probe into the communal violence that broke in the area during a Tazia procession to mark Muhraam. Because of the surcharged atmosphere, in which 30 persons were seriously injured, the Deputy Chief Minister of UP, Keshav Prasad Maurya, cancelled his plans to flag off the proposed Clean India marathon.

In Gujarat's Anand district, a 21-year-old Dalit man was beaten to death by a group of men belonging to the upper caste Patel community for attending a garba event. Just a few days before Gandhi Jayanti Day, two Dalit villagers near Gandhinagar had been thrashed by a gang of upper caste men for "daring to sport a moustache".

Also in Gujarat, two persons were injured in Vadodara in police firing during the procession on the occasion of Muharram. Confirming the communal clash, the police commissioner said members from two different communities hurled stones and abuses at each other as the procession was passing through the Panigate area, forcing a police officer present on the spot to open firing to disperse the mob.

Elsewhere in J&K, police and paramilitary forces celebrated non-violence day (i.e. October 2) by patting themselves on the back for having gunned down another militant—Abdul Qayoom Najar, considered a linkman between home-grown and foreign militants. Also celebrated was the recent encounter in which Yasin Yatoo was shot dead, thereby significantly weakening the Hizbul Mujahideen in the area.

The General Officer Commanding of Victor Force, a counter-insurgency force which plans and executes operations in south Kashmir, addressed a press conference to praise the role played by the security forces. The Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Zone, described the operation in which Yatoo was killed, as a "very big success''. The bullet for bullet policy is working, he said. "We had prepared a hit list of 20 of their leaders—now only five or six are left alive".

Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence evidently does not apply in practice, whether it concerns controlling angry mobs in Vadodara or slaying militants in south Kashmir.

The greatness or otherwise of the Mahatma's teachings is that it is open to interpretation depending on the ground situation. Also, there is so much of his writings that nobody has really read, so it is simpler to condense his message into convenient labels like Truth, Non-Violence and Cleanliness. Since none of these concepts can really be attained or practiced in real life, it is convenient for all to observe his birth anniversaries with due solemnity, erect statues in his memory and mouth a few platitudes in his honour.

What is not advisable, however is to actually take a closer look at some of his thoughts and ideas. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was not just the pious preacher of goodness that he is made out to be—he was complex, contradictory and even cruel individual who often preached what he himself did not practice in real life. His experiments with truth involved experiments with both morality and immorality, self-sacrifice as well as selfish behaviour.

Here are a few quotes from some of his lesser known writings, compiled by Firstpost, which give a glimpse of the darker side of the Gandhian thought process, even to the extent that he considered motherhood to be less sacred than cow worship. Some of his views were shocking and even obnoxious at times.

It is far safer for the rulers to perform the annual ritual of honouring Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi on October 2 each year. It is hotter not to go into details about what the 'Father of the Nation' really said. Apart from any tiling else, any deep study of the contradictions and complexity of Gandhi's Thoughts could even lead to dethroning him from the pedestal on which he has been put and is ritually worshipped in electoral politics.

Vol. 50, No.19, Nov 12 - 18, 2017